Futurist Ian Khan To MSPs: Trust Is Central To IoT, AI, Blockchain

'If you're really want to be successful in the industry as an MSP, as a provider, you've got to remember that everything that you do is about trust,' futurist Ian Khan says of emerging enterprise technologies like IoT, artificial intelligence and blockchain.


Futurist Ian Khan says managed services providers need to think as many as 20 years into the future to stay ahead of the market and ensure that trust remains central to their business as they adopt new technologies such as IoT, artificial intelligence and blockchain.

Speaking at The Channel Company's IoTConnex virtual conference on Wednesday, Khan, a New York-based motivational speaker and consultant, said that trust is needed as technologies like IoT and AI replace and augment processes that have been traditionally carried out by humans.

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"The way we trust things have changed — that's a pivotal thing," Khan said. "If you really want to be successful in the industry as an MSP, as a provider, you've got to remember that everything that you do is about trust," which includes trust between MSPs and their customers and their vendors.

"There is a trust chain that follows, and that is how value is created," he added.

To drive that point home, Khan used a high-level example of a smart toilet concept that could potentially collect medical and dietary information from stools and urine through sensors. Whereas humans have traditionally put their trust in doctors and dietitians to make sound decisions, technology companies of all kinds will have to ensure that same trust can exist in the technology itself.

"I believe the future is about the convergence of technology change and trust. These three things come together in order to change the world of tomorrow," he said. "If you're successful in bringing something to the table, that creates a positive change […] and it enables trust, then you have a winner's formula."

For MSPs to be successful in the future, they will also need to align themselves strategically with several forward-thinking concepts to drive future processes, such as using algorithms, the convergence of various technologies, automation, mobility and digital currencies, according to Khan.

"The future is going to be algorithmic. Your customers are going to be working and operating in algorithm-driven world," he said, whether it's a factory or an office.

In addition, Khan said, IoT, AI and blockchain are three core technologies that will be important for MSPs because of the different kinds of problems they solve. Blockchain, for instance, provides peace of mind and will improve the way trust in processes for a large number of industries, according to the futurist, while AI will give workers the freedom to pursue more creative work.

"It can help them get rid of all those things we hate doing," like filing reports, Khan said.

IoT, on the other hand, provides the key connectivity required to take data from devices and sensors and then transform them into new kinds of insights with AI and blockchain.

"If you don't have IoT or devices to connect, you don't have a need for AI or blockchain. Everything is interdependent on each other."

Ray Miciek, executive vice president of sales at Aquitas Solutions, a Roswell, Ga.-based systems integrator that provides connected maintenance solutions, said it can be difficult for companies to trust newly adopted technologies when they have relied on human-driven processes for so long.

For instance, he said, a customer that bought IBM's Maximo asset management software through Aquitas kept industrial parts in employee desks, even though the new system provided visibility into the exact number of parts available in the company's storerooms.

"People started keeping parts in their desk or in areas in their department because they didn’t trust the information in the system," he said.

However, through change management, Aquitas was able to help the customer realize that it could fully rely on Maximo to stay on top of their asset management, Miciek said. And when it comes to things like predictive or condition-based maintenance, it may be important to allow the company to use a previous process as a benchmark to ensure that the new solution is working.

"Sometimes human intervention is important in the beginning, because until you fine-tune the rules, you don’t know what you're missing," he said.